Sunday, December 25, 2011

WPN Boy (Part 2)

[This is part 2 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1 (not to mention the entire Road to WPN series, which begins here)]

Q&A Session

Behrooz 'Bezman' Shahriari checked in last time with more Q's for me to A!
- What's the most rewarding part of being a WPN event-organiser?
- What's the most difficult part?
- Do you enjoy magic more or less? How has your relationship with the game changed since a year ago?
Most rewarding part: To be completely honest, I get a blast out of seeing people having fun playing Magic, and knowing that I had a hand in arranging that experience for them. Also, I love the fact that if I want to play Magic myself, I'm never more than a couple days away from another opportunity to do so!

Most difficult part: The time commitment is quite more than I thought it would be. Between logging the events in WER, keeping the event calendar up-to-date, getting a decent newsletter out every week, keeping the stores apprised on what booster packs they need to have on stock for any given event, advertising the events, writing the blog - and all of that is on top of the time I put in at the actual events themselves!

Enjoying Magic: I think there's give and take here. I was disappointed to learn just how many people go to the 'net for deck ideas (sometimes with minor tweaking) for constructed events. I would SO much rather see a bunch of home-brewed decks battling it out, like kitchen-table Magic at an epic level :) As it stands the events often end up being won by those who can afford the cards needed for the "best deck" (whatever that may be at the time).

On the other hand, I definitely find myself having many more ideas for decks, and build a lot more (and enjoy playing them) than I used to. They're unlikely to win too many of my own events, as they are not the "best deck" (nor am I a world-class player) but I have a blast with it.


November 25, 2011: Tonight we held FNM at Novel Places instead of the usual location, and was a Standard event. I knew we'd have trouble, it being the night after Thanksgiving. Adding in the fact that it was at an unusual location, I was worried. Unfortunately my fears turned out to be founded. Only 2 players showed up, so I joined in to make it more interesting. We played three rounds, round-robin style.

The idea came up tonight of running a casual Magic night (since this was essentially that). Something to pursue later?

November 26, 2011: Innistrad Draft at Novel Places. Patrick had another event taking place on the main floor of the store, so we surreptitiously held the event upstairs. That area is used mostly as storage right now, and is filled with antiques and curios. The open rafter design of the old building made for a rather spooky setting, just perfect for an Innistrad Draft. We had 11 players, and (despite my having to rush back home to get my basic land box which I had forgotten), the event went off rather well. I owe a HUGE thanks to Craig, who had come out to help me run the event so he could make sure he knew what would be needed to run WER for the Dark Ascension prerelease events he'll be running at Novel Places at the end of January.

5 players had never played at Novel Places before, which helped with our bottom line for maintaining Core Level. Thanks go to Serg for helping arrange for so many new people to come out!

December 2, 2011: Standard event FNM at Beyond Comics. 8 players, so we ran a sanctioned 3-round event. Also tonight I picked up a used netbook to use as a back-up, especially when we'll have multiple Dark Ascension prerelease events going on at once.

One player was new to the DCI at this event, and two of the players were brothers who attended together. Hopefully some or all three will become regulars!

December 9, 2011: FNM was Innistrad Booster Draft tonight. All three of the new-to-us players from last week made it, along with another new DCI member and 6 others for a lovely 10-person Draft. The event itself ended up rather oddly, as the prize distribution was originally set based on the "perfect" result which would have had 2 players at 9 match points (we only run 3 rounds for limited events due to time constraints). But after round two, when I expected to have 3 players at 6 points, we instead had only 1 (the player who won round one but got paired down in round two didn't win as the model predicted, and two other round 1 winners ended up in a draw). I made adjustments to the prize distribution (increasing the pack payout at each level, since there'd be fewer people at the very top), and STILL had 3 packs left over at the end to randomly give out amongst 4 players who hadn't won a pack.

Strangest moment of the draft was possibly the situation where a player who had mulliganed down to 5 cards had an early board state of 2 copies of Blazing Torch and 2 copies of One-Eyed Scarecrow (in addition to his lands). So bizarre!

December 10, 2011

Bigger news is that Patrick has agreed to give the Casual Magic night a try, so the first one will be this coming Wednesday (December 14). He'll keep the shop open two hours later than normal, and the official posted times will be 6-9 pm.

December 14, 2011: The inaugural Casual Magic Night was tonight. My sons have karate on Wednesday nights, so we showed up late (~8:30) but there were three other players there (including one that had never been at Novel Places before). Not too bad for the first time out. I'll continue to advertise it in my weekly email newsletter, and try to drum up interest at FNM.

December 16, 2011: FNM at Beyond Comics, Standard Constructed. 10 players again tonight (this time I did not need to play!). We ran 4 rounds, and I think it went quite well. Next week is Two-Headed Giant, Innistrad Sealed. I'm looking forward to it, and hope we have at least 4 teams!

Tonight I scheduled the FNMs for February. The first week we'll sacrifice FNM to run a Friday night Dark Ascension Launch Party. Second week will be Innistrad/Dark Ascension Draft. Third will be Standard, and fourth will be my first ever Block Constructed event. Haven't 100% decided if it will be Scars of Mirrodin Block (allows cards from Scars of Mirrodin, Mirrodin Besieged and New Phyrexia) or Innistrad Block (which will allow cards from Innistrad and Dark Ascension). Leaning toward the latter.

December 21, 2011: 7 players for Casual Magic Night at Novel Places tonight. Much insanity ensued when we combined my deck of Plane cards from Planechase (1 copy of each Plane in existence, including promos) with EDH/Commander. Turns out that a 5-player EDH game with Planes takes a LONG time. We called it (with no-one really clearly in the lead) at 9:30, a good half-hour after the event was supposed to end. Lucky for us Patrick seemed to be enjoying us being so goofy!

Also tonight, Patrick gave the thumbs up to extend the Casual Magic Night through January at least.

December 23, 2011:  FNM at Beyond Comics was Two-Headed Giant Innistrad Sealed Deck. We had (barely) 4 teams, so an official FNM. One player (Josh) had just shown up to observe, but he was convinced to team up with one of our regulars, Dan, who had shown up without a partner. Dan was willing to pay for both of them, provided he got to keep all the cards at the end of the event. Josh was happy to get to play for free.

Team "Last Minute" (myself and Craig) played pretty well together, winning Rounds 1 & 2, and were only 1 land drop away from winning Round 3.

I take issue with the WER on something, though. I had decided that the 12 prize packs would be distributed as follows:
  • 1st place: 5 packs
  • 2nd place: 4 packs
  • 3rd place: 2 packs
  • 4th place: 1 pack
That way everyone wins something. But in this case what happened was that two teams had identical scores at the top (win %'s, opponent win %'s, in every way identical) and the same for the 3rd & 4th slots. For the top two slots one team (myself and Craig) had beaten the other team, so you would think that the 1st place slot would be given to us. But instead it was given to the other team. And in the lower two slots the same thing happened. The team who ended up 4th place had actually beaten the team that was put in 3rd place. I don't know what criteria the WER bases places when the stats are identical (random would seem logical?) but in this case it seems to me that there's clearly a way to determine ranking: if the two tied teams played each other, rank the one that won that matchup higher than the other!

I'm worried about tomorrow's event at Novel Places. Despite this incredibly awesome flyer Craig came up with:
Santa Garruk wants YOU for the Draft!
Still it is on Christmas Eve, and with folks on vacation or with family obligations, we may have a hard time hitting at least 8 players. We'll see!

December 24, 2011:  Well, it was not as bad as it could have been! 5 players showed up for the Innistrad Draft at Novel Places today. I joined in as well so that there'd be an even number (although, as my 0-3 record will attest, we might as well have just given a Bye to everyone who was paired up against me). I proved once again that I am absolutely hopeless when it comes to drafting, and my deck was just God-awful. But, the players seemed to enjoy themselves nonetheless, and for that I am grateful.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

WPN Boy (Part 1)

As I said at the end of The Road to WPN Part 27, I feel like that series had served its purpose. I set out to document the process and struggles involved in getting a store set up as a Wizards Play Network site, and bringing that store up to Core Level so that it could run Friday Night Magic, Prereleases and other such events.

A lot of oddities happened along the way (not the least of which was picking up a second store to run events at), and the series was overall very well received and developed a rather large following. Still, however, I felt that it had run its course (especially given that its name, which implied a trip to a destination which I feel has already been reached).

So, that brings us to this: the inaugural "issue" if you will of a new series. "WPN Boy" (pronounced "whippin' boy"*) will chronicle my further adventures in TO'ing for Novel Places and Beyond Comics. My intention for this series is to act as two functions:
  1. A simple diary of events after they occur (which will mostly consist of date, type of event, attendance, and then anything noteworthy that happened);
  2. A vehicle to answer questions from you, the audience, sent in either as comments to these posts, or via Twitter (I'm @TheSundry over there) or email (TheSundry at gmail dot com). So PLEASE feel free to ask away - it will give me something to write about!
*For those who are unaware, a whipping boy was a boy who would be punished instead of a prince when the prince had done something wrong. In this analogy, I will be taking the beating for you as I stumble through the always tricky process of being a TO, so that hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. I guess that makes you the prince - so make of that what you will :)

I will publish these basically as they fill up and seem a reasonable size for release out into the wild, so there will likely be no regular schedule to them. I hope that these posts continue to amuse and entertain, as well as (hopefully) shed some light on what happens behind the scenes at events you attend (for you non-TOs out there) and even offer advice and assistance for those of you who are TOs (or wish to be some day).

Q&A Session

The first question I want to answer came from Behrooz 'Bezman' Shahriari in the comments to the last Road to WPN entry:
I suppose one interesting point that you haven't really gone into would be what kind of advertising you do. Do you leave flyers at BC or NP? Have they had much success? Do you use FB to advertise events? How do folk tend to find out about it?
We do have flyers that each store uses, most of which are put together by my rather talented friend, Craig. Here's a sample, for the Innistrad Draft that I'll be running at Novel Places on November 26:
I thought the celebratory art fit with the fact that this event will be the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Craig usually makes full page flyers as well as smaller ones that cam be printed out 2x2 on a sheet and cut down to size. The stores post the larger ones on their door or in prominent locations in-store, then have the smaller ones out by the cash register as take-aways. For FNMs I make up a simple monthly list as a 2x2 for Beyond Comics to have sitting out by the cash register. It looks like this:
Not pretty, but functional. The Comic Sans can be forgiven - it's a comic store!

I used to get a pile of the event flyers (large & takeaways) and post them up at local community centers. I found, however, that when I asked folks how they learned about the event, not once did they say "I saw a flyer at the community center." so I stopped. I also used to post ads in Craig's List (different Craig), but found the same to be true.

I have found that the biggest source of new players (besides word-of-mouth, "come with me to this event run by this guy called Don" type referral) actually is the Wizards of the Coast Store & Event Locator. For those of you who don't know about this amazing resource, any officially sanctioned and scheduled event is in a large searchable database, complete with map, location info, etc. (you can see it for yourself here). You can search for specific types of events, like a prerelease or FNM. It's really quite something. I've lost track of the number of people who told me they found our events using this system, so I'm VERY grateful that it exists!


November 11, 2011: Not a very auspicious FNM on 11/11/11, I'm afraid. The format was Innistrad Draft, and only 3 players showed up. I joined in to make it 4. P1P1 for me was Bloodline Keeper, and I managed to get some good support. Lost Round 1 horribly, tightened up the deck, and won rounds 2 & 3 to take 2nd place in the event (this guy took first).

November 12, 2011: Standard constructed event at Novel Places. Two regular players brought friends (3 between the two of them) and a few other regulars showed up (plus someone who had been meaning to make it to an event for a while now). When the dust settled, we had 8 (without needing me) - so we could actually run it as a sanctioned event. Hooray! This was my first event with a "super promo prize pack" for the 1st place player (who was regular-attender and big supporter of our events, Roger). He took home, in addition to his prize booster packs, all of the following promo cards from my ever-growing collection:

  1. WPN Promo Maul Splicer;
  2. WPN Promo Vault Skirge;
  3. WPN Promo Auramancer;
  4. WPN Promo Tormented Soul;
  5. WPN Promo Bloodcrazed Neonate;
  6. WPN Promo Curse of the Bloody Tome;
  7. Innistrad Prerelease Promo Mayor of Avabruck;
  8. Innistrad Prerelease Promo Wolf Token;
  9. Innistrad Launch Party Promo Ludevic's Test Subject;
  10. Innistrad Game Day Promo Diregraf Ghoul
I plan to offer the same prize pack for the next three Saturday events at Novel Places (Nov 26, Dec 10, Dec 24). I figure I need some sort of extra draw, especially if I want people to come out the Saturday after Thanksgiving and (even worse), on Christmas Eve (that wasn't on purpose, I swear! It just happens to be the 4th Saturday in December this year!).

November 18, 2011: FNM at Beyond Comics. Format: Standard Constructed. 10 players made it (sanctioned!). One of them was new to DCI, and two others had never played here before. The former was invited by a friend, and is unlikely to make it regularly as he lives a good deal away. But they latter 2 (brothers) seemed to really enjoy themselves and I think will come back for events here as well as at Novel Places. We played 4 rounds, since it was a Constructed event and that would have us end about the same time as 3 rounds of Limited (once you factor in draft/build time), and we were still done around 9:30.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 27)

[This is part 27 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 14.5, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, and Part 26]

October 28, 2011: FNM tonight went reasonably well. We had 8 participants for a Standard event (and I didn't need to sign up to make it 8!).

It turned out that the FNM&Ms that we received last week were supposed to be used TONIGHT (which I found out from the WPN newsletter this past Wednesday). It would be nice if the instructions on use of these promotional items went out in advance of their arriving at the store so that we know these things! [Side note on these: the reverse side does not have the Planeswalker symbol as I had previously reported, but instead the symbol of Avacyn from the Innistrad set.]

Anyway, the majority of the players had been here last week as well, so I handed out FNM&Ms and deck boxes to those who hadn't been. We ended up getting the ideal distribution after three rounds (1 player with 9 match points, 3 players with 6, 3 with 3 and one with 0).

This was, in a way, to be a test night for me. If, as I was concerned, the issue was one of format in competing with Dream Wizards, then (I hoped) running Standard more often at FNM would lead to larger turnouts. But last week's Draft actually had more players. Not sure what to make of this.

This is the beginning of a Magic intensive weekend for me, as I have not one but two Game Days to run tomorrow. And there's a rare October snow storm forecast for tomorrow, so I'm a bit nervous.

October 29, 2011: The weather this morning was mostly cold and rainy, not snowy. We ended up with 7 other players at Beyond Comics, so I joined in to make it 8. This meant that everyone got not only the participation promo (non-Foil full art Diregraf Ghoul) but also the "Top 8" foil full-art Elite Inquisitor promo as well (turns out it's easy to top 8 an event when there are only 8 players - who knew?).

I played my "Tokens of my Affection" deck, which does not have a sideboard at the moment. It played okay, but not great. I only won one match (Round 1), but, as mentioned before, still managed to Top 8. We had the same match point distribution as last night's event.

The afternoon Game Day at Novel Places was not so rosy a story. By the afternoon, the snow had really started coming down. We ended up with only 4 players (1 of whom was me). This meant that I had to cancel the official Game Day and run things as a casual event instead. The good news was, though, that all four of us got both of the promos!

I played the same deck, and defeated two of my opponents. One of the players lost each match, while the other three of us won 2/3 matches. Strange ending record.

This makes two events in a row at Novel Places that only had 4 players show up (and I was #4 in both cases). I'm really not sure what to do about this. I had seriously thought that having a Saturday Magic option was going to be attractive to folks, and it may simply be that I'm not doing a good enough job getting the word out that we're doing them.

So, mixed results on my first experience running a Game Day. My hope is that the weather was a major factor and things would have been different attendance-wise if we didn't have the snow.

November 3, 2011: Stopped by Novel Places today to pick up some books I had ordered, and discussed with Patrick some conflicts that will be coming up on some of our Saturday events. The 4th Saturday of November and the 2nd Saturday of December he had to schedule some other programs that will be set up in the space we normally run the events. We think we have a solution moving into an alternate space. I think it's important that we maintain our "2nd and 4th Saturday" schedule so that folks get used to it and know that if it's one of those Saturdays they can come out to Novel Places and play Magic.

November 4, 2011: FNM tonight was Innistrad Sealed Deck, and we only managed to get 6 players out (not including me - if a seventh had shown up I would have joined in to make it 8). This, of course, means cancelling the official event and running a casual instead. I am, to be quite frank, getting sick and tired of having to do that.

The other big news tonight was that John asked if it would be possible to cancel the FNM scheduled for November 25. Here in the US, the Friday after Thanksgiving (Nov 24 this year) is known as "Black Friday" and is, historically, the biggest shopping day of the year. It's the unofficial beginning of the holiday buying season, and a day that most retailers depend on for a huge influx of revenue.

As could be predicted, then, Beyond Comics plans to have a huge sale, and will need some of the tables we would ordinarily use for an event to set up special sales items. Also, whoever is on duty that day (and they're down an employee at the moment) will likely be wiped out by the end of the day, and not really looking forward to having to stay late for a FNM. Add that to the fact that I had scheduled that night to be Innistrad Sealed Deck (the most expensive of the formats we run) which would likely reduce the potential number of players....yeah, you can see why he'd want to let this one go.

BUT, I had already received the FNM promos for that week. And there was always the possibility that Patrick would be interested in running an FNM for once (if the event could be transferred from one location to another). So I resolved to check with Patrick and find out.

November 6, 2011: Turns out he would, so I contacted Brian (through the new interface system with WotC customer support) to ask if it was possible. He told me it would be possible - I needed to create an event at Novel Places for that evening and send him the sanctioning number. He would change that event to an FNM, and I would then need to cancel the scheduled FNM for Beyond Comics.

We got that all cleared up, and now Novel Places will host its very first FNM on November 25. I decided to make it a Standard event, in the hopes that it will be more attractive to folks (a Constructed event is the cheapest of the events). We have an Innistrad Draft event scheduled there for the day after that as well. It is the Thanksgiving weekend, and many folks will be away. But, on the other hand, a number of college students will be back home for the holiday, so maybe those two will cancel out?

ON ANOTHER NOTE: This will likely be my last regular update to The Road to WPN. As many regular readers already know, it's rather overdue anyway. Things have become a bit more routine lately, and simple reports of FNM attendance does not for riveting reading make.

If something of note should occur (like the FNM transfer mentioned above, or an especially large event, or some random big-name Magic celebrity showing up - something like that) I will be sure to post an update on it.

I want to thank everyone who has made this journey with me, both by attending events and reading about it. Without the former, neither store could have made it to Core Level, and been able to run FNMs, Prereleases and Game Days, not to mention that I've had a blast meeting new people and playing more Magic than I've been able to play in years. And without the latter, well - this certainly would not have been as easy a trip without the support and well-wishes I have received from readers.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 26)

[This is part 26 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 14.5, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, and Part 25]

October 14, 2011:Tonight's FNM (another Innistrad Sealed Deck event) was, unfortunately, as sparsely attended as last week's was. Only 5 players signed up, so I again joined in so there'd be an even number. Since we were under 8 I had to cancel the actual FNM and run the event as a casual one.

I found out one big strike against us is indeed Dream Wizards. As mentioned before, they are the "big fish" in our local gaming pond. They are at Advanced level in the WPN, allowing them to run two FNMs each week. As of this week, in response to the new Planeswalker Points system (mainly, I believe, although some expressed the opinion that this is perhaps to help market against us - I'm not quite that paranoid yet), they've changed their policy to make one of the two ALWAYS a Standard event, and will let it run extra long if they've got a large enough attendance (they used to run only 3 rounds, regardless of how many people show up). To quote their calendar description:
Weekly FNM Standard Format Tournament: • Best Chance to Rank up Planeswalker Points: 3X Multiplier • Participate in the proper Number of Swiss Rounds: • 9 - 16 players = 4 Rounds • 17 - 32 players = 5 Rounds
I can't really ask whatever store employee is running Beyond Comics to stay any later than they already are with a 3-round FNM (although since Standard doesn't have a deck-building time, I could probably squeeze in a 4th round now that I think about it).

Several people have commented that they would prefer to play a Standard FNM with us than with Dream Wizards, so I have decided that I will start alternating weeks with FNM. Every other week we'll do Standard, and on the "off" weeks we'll do Limited formats, other Constructed formats, Two-Headed Giant, etc. The big test will be October 28, as that's the next Standard FNM we have scheduled. I won't be able to start the new schedule until December, since November's FNMs are already scheduled, and you have to declare the format when you register the event.

October 21, 2011: What a difference a week makes! In all honesty I left Beyond Comics tonight feeling like I had just had the most fun running an event that I have had so far in my (granted, short) WPN career.

The evening started off with presents! I arrived at the store to find several boxes awaiting me. I started cracking them open and found that they represented two things. The first was a promo kit for the Innistrad Game Day on October 29, including a big advertising poster and the promos for the event:
My first Game Day promos :)
The second item (which was in two boxes) was a FNM promotional kit. WotC is really playing up the Innistrad/Halloween synergy and has pulled out all the stops with items to help promote FNM (especially the FNM on the Halloween weekend, next week's Oct 28 event). These included:
Big 3D promotional poster.

Planeswalker M&Ms. How freaking cool is THAT?!?!
 Quotes of the evening came from these M&Ms (I handed them out between Rounds 1 & 2):
  • "Should be dark chocolate."
  • "Hmmm....Tastes like Liliana...."
Garruk deck boxes.
 These deck boxes are really cool if you can figure out how to assemble them properly!
Liliana shopping bags. My boys will be using some for Trick-or-Treating!
Also included was a gigantic door-cling (like a window-cling, but MUCH larger) with the same Liliana art as the bag above. Yes, they are milking that Liliana art for all that it's worth. I can only hope Steve Argyle (the artist of the piece) gets royalties for every time it gets used!

So, anyway, when the event was ready to start I already felt like a kid in a candy store, excited to get going.

And then tonight's FNM (Innistrad Booster Draft) had 11 people at the start! SO much better than only 5!

There was no need for me to join in (I don't mind Byes if there's over 8 people, as I can play against whoever has a Bye if they're interested so they don't have to sit around bored for the round).

Of the 11 players, 6 had never played at Beyond Comics before. Of those, 4 were new to the DCI entirely, and needed to get cards. Always cool to have new faces.

After the Draft was over, one of the players dropped (he knew he had to leave early, he just wanted to sit in and draft some cards he was looking for), leaving us an even number of players for Round 1. Then after Round 1, someone else had to drop as he needed to get ready for the SCG Open tomorrow in Baltimore (more on that later). This left us with an odd number of players for Round 2. One of the DCI newcomers got the Bye, so I played a variety of my constructed decks against his drafted deck, as well as against a constructed one he had brought along. As he described it, he was here to learn (he had never seen any Innistrad cards before tonight, which gave the Draft an extra degree of difficulty for him, I'm sure!).

Everyone stayed in for Round 3, so I got to play one of regulars who had gotten the Bye. He had a Zombie deck he wanted to playtest, which seemed a good match against my Humans deck. So we had an epic Humans vs. Zombies showdown.

Random extras from the evening:
  • A girl in her teens stopped in and asked if she could watch, as she's never seen Magic played and is interested. That was fine with all involved - unfortunately a Draft is not the most exciting thing to watch at the beginning (especially if you don't know what's going on) and she had to leave before Round 1 began. I gave her a copy of the Magic 2012 Rulebook, and hope she may be back in the future.
  • One of the oddest "small world" scenes I've seen in a while happened. A guy dropped into the store because one of the women he was with knew Johnny, the guy running the store this evening. While he was there he happened to look into the back room and recognized one of the players. He came back to say hi, and realized he knew a second one of the players. After chatting for a moment, he called the 2 ladies back (as they had met these two players before) and one of the ladies realized that ANOTHER of the players was her cousin! So amazingly random.
Anyway, as I said - I had an absolute blast.

Tomorrow we have a Modern Constructed event scheduled in the afternoon at Novel Places (this months "4th Saturday" event). I'm a little nervous because:
  1. It's a relatively untried format (and therefore not as popular as it could be);
  2. Star City Games has their Open series in Baltimore this weekend, and many of our regulars will be heading up for that instead of coming to us.
I'm hoping we have enough folks who aren't interested in the big guys' tournament to run a decent event tomorrow, but we shall see...

October 22, 2011:Yeah, that didn't happen :(

Only three players showed up today, so I joined in to make it four. This meant, of course, that I had to cancel the sanctioned event and run a casual one. We played three Rounds, with each of us playing each other player at one point or another.

I don't really have a Modern deck, so I used my Blue/White Humans deck, which is Standard-legal.

To say it sucked would be an understatement.

I managed to win only one game all day with the deck. After losing in Round 1 and 2, I played my Mono et Mono deck against that opponent (as my matches were over much quicker than the other match each time). And even THAT deck just did not get the job done. I am just not cut out for the Modern world, I'm afraid. The decks I faced were just too nasty and fast.

Unless I get a sizable clamoring from my player base, I'm not sure we'll be running Modern again any time soon.


Friday, October 14, 2011

"Cool Metal Life-counter?"

Just a quickie, here. In case you're wondering what I mean by "cool metal life-counter" as one of the options you can vote for in the current Blog Poll to pick the next email newsletter giveaway prize, here's what they look like:
Bask in the awesomeness!
They're a bit heavy and will cost more to ship than my normal giveaways, but that's okay. Please note: I get to pick which one gets given away if this prize is chosen in the poll!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 25)

[This is part 25 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 14.5, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23 and Part 24]

Astute readers will have noticed that I abandoned the "WPN Report Card" a few installments back. Truth be told, it became too big a headache to keep track of the "unique players" at each site. Before we made it to Core Level, it was relatively easy. Had the person ever played here before? Easy to answer. But now it becomes "have they played here since we made it to Core Level?" and that's somehow a good deal more difficult to determine. I kept track long enough to tell that unless something VERY wrong happens, we will have no trouble maintaining Core Level by running our regular events.

I have never really mentioned before what is involved in making it to the NEXT level in WPN (yes, there's more beyond Core!) because realistically I don't ever seeing us making it there at either store. But, in the interests of being complete for those not in the know, here's the details on Advanced Level...

At Advanced Level you get these extra benefits:
  • The ability to run extra events (like 2 FNMs each week instead of just one)
  • "Advanced Support Kits" (whatever those are)
  • More special events (such as Premium Tournaments, Grand Prix Trials, WPN Championship Qualifiers)
  • Extra From the Vault product
  • The ability to schedule events up to 7 days after they happened
To make it to Advanced Level you need to do the following within a 12-month period:
  • Report a minimum of 20 tournaments
  • Maintain a delinquency rate of less than 10%
  • Have a minimum of 100 unique people playing in your reported events
  • Run and report a single tournament with 32 players or more
  • Introduce 20 new players to WPN events
The first two are no problem. Even if you just run FNM for 5 months you've got the first one, and there's REALLY no excuse for having a delinquency rate over 10% (or over 0%, IMHO!). But given the difficulty we had getting to 30 unique players to make Core, I'm not sure how well we'd do at making 100. Also, unless we rent out some larger space, we'll never be able to run an event with 32+ players. The last one could actually be doable (although doing it once a year would be tough unless we got big and STAYED big).

So, realistically, I think we're at Core and will stay at Core and I'm okay with that!

October 7, 2011: Today's FNM was a rather odd affair overall.

First of all, we only had 5 participants, so I joined up to make it an even number so we wouldn't need to worry about Byes. This meant cancelling the scheduled FNM and scheduling a casual event instead, as we didn't meet the 8-player threshold.

I'm not completely sure what caused the problem, but I'm guessing there were two major factors:
  • The event was Innistrad Sealed Deck. This carries a $25 price tag, and a lot of folks have shelled out a lot of money on Innistrad lately (between Prereleases and Launch Parties and even buying whole boxes) so there's a drop in interest in spending $25 for an event right now. Unfortunately this is what I've scheduled for next week as well.
  • Dream Wizards (the "big fish" in our local pond) was running a Standard FNM (in addition to a Sealed Deck - THEY are at Advanced Level, and have the space, so they can run 2 FNMs). I think that was more attractive to folks.
I'm coming to the realization that despite my personal dislike of Standard events, I need to run more of them. The lower price tag (only $8, since players are only paying for the prize pool packs) is just more attractive on a regular basis.

But, back to the odd FNM. In an ideal distribution, after 3 rounds of Swiss we would have had 1 person undefeated (9 match points), 3 people who had won 2 rounds (6 match points) and 2 people who had won 1 round (3 match points). We had 12 packs in the prize pool. So I set up the prize allocation as:
  • 9 match points = 4 booster packs
  • 7 match points (2 wins & 1 draw) = 3 booster packs
  • 6 match points = 2 booster packs
This would, theoretically, leave me with 2 boosters to randomly distribute among those who got under 6 match points (which under ideal circumstances would have been just two players, so effectively you would have had 1 booster pack for earning 3 match points).

To say the match turn-out was not ideal would be an understatement.

In the first round, we had two matches play out as expected, but one ended in a draw. So instead of having match points of 3, 3, 3, 0, 0, 0 as expected, we instead had 3, 3, 1, 1, 0, 0.

That in and of itself wasn't too bad. But then in round two we had two of the matches end in draws (including the match between the two winners from round 1). As a result we were left with no-one undefeated at the end of two round instead of the theoretical 2 players we should have had (point distribution after round 2 was 4, 4, 4, 2, 1, 0 - for the record, I was the 0 at this point).

Round 3 went as one would expect, with three winners. But while the 4 pts vs 4 pts match ended up with someone getting 7 match points (and therefore in the prize range), the 4 pts vs 2 pts went to the 2 pt person, leaving neither of them in range, and the 1 pt vs 0 pt went to me (bringing me to 3 match points). But neither of us was in the running at this stage. Final point distribution was 7, 5, 4, 4, 3, 1. Only 1 of the 6 players ended up in the prize range, and he wasn't even at the top point level!

After giving him his 3 packs, we were left with 9 more in the pool. And I had always sworn that I would give out every pack in the prize pool (I don't want to end up with "the house always wins"!). So each of the remaining 5 players got 1 pack each, and the final 4 packs I distributed randomly among the 6 of us.

Like I said - VERY strange outcome!

October 8, 2011: Today's event went quite smoothly. It was another Innistrad Sealed Deck event, this time at Novel Places. This was the first of what will be our regular 2nd and 4th Saturday events. I want to establish a regular pattern for players who are looking for events on a Saturday (something that, outside of special events, is lacking in our area - see a need, fill a need!).

I was worried that we may not get our 8 players, as we only had 2 preregistered (and prepaid) and one person (Darren) who had told me they were likely to come out, even though he didn't think he could play more than 2 rounds. When I arrived, Patrick told me that he had had someone call and ask about the event (confirming the time), and a local guy (Ian) who has been buying some MTG product from Patrick told him that he'd try to make it as well. So we had 3 for sure, and 2 possibles at this point. Then Serg arrived (I figured I could count on him!) although without Vish (boo, Vish!). Then Craig called to say he was coming up (wasn't expecting him - BONUS!). Ian did indeed make it. And then the gentleman who had called earlier turned up, with a friend along for the ride. Suddenly we had 8. Awesome! No need to cancel and run a casual event, and no need for me to jump in to make the minimum.

Some sick pulls were made. We had a Liliana and a foil Snapcaster Mage (two of the most expensive cards in the set) and several other Mythics (including Olivia Voldaren, who is an absolute beast in a Limited environment).

Round 1 and two went as an ideal distribution would predict. Then Darren, as he had forewarned, needed to drop after round 2 so the only person who was at this point winless got a Bye. This put everyone into prize range (I give out booster packs for the highest levels, but use WPN promos even down to only 3 match points [1 match win]).

Five of the eight players had never played at Novel Places before, and 1 of these was completely new to organized play and needed a DCI card. So all-in-all it was a great event for us as far as maintaining Core Level status is concerned.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 24)

[This is part 24 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 14.5, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, and Part 23]

September 28, 2011: Today I heard from the DCI that last week's FNM (the Two-Headed Giant event that only had 6 players) had also been invalidated.

Brian got back to me later in the day to confirm my suspicion that this event (as well as the second prerelease event from Sunday) were both invalidated due to being under 8 players. Fortunately, he was able to allow me to submit two casual events in their place, and at least get people credit for having played.

The answer, it turns out, to how do you create a casual 2HG event is: you don't. I have finally managed to get this fact through my thick skull: for a casual event the DCI and WPN does not give two hoots about who played against who, or how many games each player won/lost/drew. They only care about who was present. That's it. In fact if you submit a casual event, you're supposed to check the box labeled "player list only" to make it even easier. To me that seems rather sad, but there you have it.

September 30, 2011: Tonight, instead of running an FNM, we had the Launch Party for Innistrad at Beyond Comics. Throughout the day I was keeping tabs on our preregistrations. We had hit 14 early in the day, but two wrote to me to let me know that their circumstances had changed and they needed to cancel. We had planned on capping at 18, since that's the number of chairs we have available normally (extra tables and chairs had been brought down from the Frederick branch of Beyond Comics for the prerelease last weekend). So, I figured with 12 signed up in advance, that only had us at 66% capacity, and we should be fine.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

I arrived at the store at around 5:40 this evening. The posted start of registration was 6:00, with the event scheduled to start at 6:30. I always try to get in 15 to 30 minutes before registration even begins to get set up. I arrived to find that John had already started processing people in - without knowing who had preregistered and who didn't (or even how many preregistrations to expect). He was asking folks if they had preregistered, but as we weren't requiring prepayment for this one it didn't really matter.

This proved to be a bit of a problem, however, because there were WAY more people waiting to sign up than I had expected! By the time the dust settled, we had 15 present and paid for, 2 still on the preregistration list, and 5 more who wanted to sign up! We waited until 6:30, the posted start time, for the final 2 preregistered people to show up. One was a name I didn't know (and who reported in their signup that they needed a DCI #) and the other was Roger, a regular. I felt bad giving up both slots. Roger had proven to be a solid supporter of what I'm doing, even advertising the events among his play group. As for the other person, I would hate to have their first experience with us be showing up despite preregistering only to find that his seat was gone.

However, we needed to start, and we had 5 eager people willing and ready to pay (some of them even willing to STAND for the event) there in-store. So I finally made the decision to sign up the 5 people waiting in the store. That brought us to 20 people, 2 more than we had chairs for (and making it the largest event I've run to date). Many of these had never played an Beyond Comics before, and 4 were attending their first event (and needed DCI cards).

While the 5 were paying John, Roger did make it (traffic was awful, it seems). It wasn't a total wasted trip for him, as he had placed an order from me he was going to pick up that evening, but I still feel bad that there just wasn't room to fit him in. If you're reading this, Roger - my sincerest apologies yet again!

The lessons to be learned here are:
  • I should have contacted the store and let John know how many sign-ups we already had (and sent him a list, so he could check people off);
  • John should not have started processing people in until I had arrived to give him said info.

So, we finally got started around 6:45 or so, and after 4 rounds of play we ended at around 11:30. My warmest thanks to Jawhara, who had to stay that late on a Friday night to man the store (her shift would normally have been done at 9!) - I don't think anyone had warned her that this particular event would go extra late (FNMs usually run at most an hour later than normal closing time).

So, why was this event so well attended? I'm not sure. My best guess is that since Friday is the first day one can hold a Launch Party, and (to the best of my knowledge) none of the local places were doing so, we were the "only game in town" for anyone who wanted to attend a Launch Party today. I had originally thought this would be our only Friday night Launch Party (since we run FNMs now) but now I wonder if it may be worth sacrificing an FNM each time to do this instead.

On a side note, I'm a bit concerned. The FNM promos for October I would have expected to arrive by now, but everyone at Beyond Comics reports that there have been no such deliveries. We need those promos starting next Friday, so I hope they come early next week!

October 2, 2011: Today was Novel Places' Launch Party for Innistrad. It was scheduled to start at 1:30 (with registration to start at 1). We only had 4 people signed up in advance (two had gone through Patrick's website and gotten the 10% discount; 2 had signed up through my web form just to reserve a space). And two others (Serg & Vish, who have become regulars) were there when I arrived.

I actually got there a bit frazzled today, as when I was packing up this morning I discovered that my netbook was missing. The only thing I could figure is that I somehow left it at Beyond Comics on Friday night. Unfortunately they don't open until 12 noon on Sundays (unless they're opening early for a prerelease!) so I couldn't call them to check. And if I was going to head south to Gaithersburg to pick it up, and then head back north to Clarksburg for the event, I would have to leave at 12. So, I left (my two sons along with me for the afternoon), hoping it wouldn't turn out that the computer wasn't there after all.

Fortunately it was sitting there right where I had left it, so I grabbed it and skedaddled, and arrived at Novel Places around 12:30, when I had planned to get there anyway.

When the time came to start the event, we had no others show up, so my two sons joined the 6 we had to make it 8 for the event so as to allow it to run as a competitive event. With only 8 players, I set the event for 3 rounds and the playing began.

While the event was running, I borrowed Patrick's camera as our household one has been acting up, and I needed to get pictures of the cards from Innistrad from my store. Thankfully my netbook has a built-in card reader so I could extract the photos from his camera card for processing later. I didn't get everything photographed (the commons and uncommons will have to wait for later - I'm just going to buy a new camera to use exclusively for store work).

October 5, 2011: I called in to Beyond Comics to check and see if the FNM promos had arrived as yet, and was told that nothing was there. So I used the WotC customer service system to ask if they had been delayed, or could be tracked (past experience has taught me they ship these things with tracking numbers).

Later I heard back from them, with a FedEx tracking number. That shows the package having been delivered last Thursday, signed for by "CCOHEN". Now Jon Cohen is the owner of Beyond Comics, and usually works in the Frederick store. But last week on Thursday he was manning the Gaithersburg one (where I TO events - the Frederick store has since started running events of their own). Unfortunately he is on vacation this week, and no-one else has any clue where he may have stashed the package of promos after he signed for them. I'm going to have to get there extra early on Friday and help tear the place up looking for them...

October 6, 2011: Today I got the weekly WPN newsletter, and it linked to an article detailing some changes they're making to prereleases starting with the next set (Dark Ascension, releasing the first weekend of February next year). There are some interesting changes, namely:
  • Sites at Core Level will be able to run THREE events now (up from two for Innistrad);
  • Booster Draft will no longer be an allowed format at prereleases (only Sealed Deck and 2HG Sealed Deck).
So that removes the question of whether to run a Draft event next time (if you recall, that was the event that only had 6 attendees). But it adds in a complication factor. Can I realistically run 3 events at each of 2 sites in 2 days? Single-handedly, I don't think so. But, my good buddy Craig may be willing and able to help. We'll have to figure out if there's a way to schedule events such that he can run two of the 6 events for me (I think I can pull of two each day that weekend, so if he can manage the other two I'll be set).

The only questions that remain are:
  • Which store gets which events on which days? Since Beyond Comics is closer to the "big fish" store (who runs the HUGE events on Saturday), it would make more sense to let Novel Places get the Saturday events (especially since we will have established a pattern of Saturday events at that location by then).
  • Just because we CAN run three events at each store, does this mean we WANT to do so?
  • What format(s) to do? Two-Headed Giant didn't work so well as an FNM, but there were many mitigating factors, and perhaps the prerelease would be different.
The two possible schedules I have come up with are:
  1. Novel Places runs two events on Saturday (am and pm), and Beyond Comics runs just one. Craig runs the one at Beyond Comics.  Then, on Sunday, Beyond Comics runs two events (am and pm) while Novel Places runs just one. Craig runs the one at Novel Places.
  2. Each store runs two events on Saturday (am and pm). Craig would run both events at one of the stores. Then each store runs a single event on Sunday (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). I'd run both of these, going from one store to the next like I did for Magic Celebration.
The first option requires Craig's help on two separate days, but only for part of each day. The second option requires his help on only one day, but for the WHOLE day.

And, of course, I'm not so sure how his wife Misty will feel about this!

On another note, Patrick got the new batch of WPN Gateway promos in today (and Beyond Comics got theirs later) and he kindly took photos and sent them to me. So, starting with his event on Saturday, I'll be able to offer these lovelies as additional prizes:
I actually prefer the promo Neonate to the original!
So cool! I just love getting new promos in!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 23)

[This is part 23 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 14.5, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, and Part 22]

September 25, 2011: Today was the Innistrad prerelease, my first experience running such an event. And it has its ups and its downs.

First a recap of what we knew going in to this:
  • We were running two events: an a.m. Sealed Deck event (to start at 10:30), and a p.m. Draft (to start at 3:30);
  • We were limiting the event to 18 players as those were the # of seats available
  • A signing from comic-book creator Kurt Busiek was scheduled for the same day (to run from 1 to 4)
  • We were also going to allow Open Dueling during the event
I was dropped off at the store around 9 a.m. (as my family needed to continue on to head to church for the morning). John had kindly agreed to meet me there at that time (a full 3 hours before the store normally opens on a Sunday). I found that at this point in time we had 17 people registered for the morning event, but only 4 for the afternoon. A quick look at the list revealed that someone was on there twice (clerical error), so we really only had 16.

As I was setting up, John received a phone call asking if there was still space. He said there was, and registered the player for both events. Now up to 17 and 5. Then John showed me something nice - they had brought some additional tables down from the Frederick store to help out (what with Kurt needing a table for his signing, and us potentially needed to exceed 18 if possible). With those set up, we expanded our potential to 22.

I asked John to hand the little white registration slips I use to everyone as they checked in with him, as a way to double-check that they were in fact paid & registered (and also a clue to me that I needed to give them their promo cards).

I finished setting up, and John opened the doors at 10:00 (we already had some players gathering outside). I grabbed the signup sheet and started getting folks registered into the system. Everything worked well - the majority of the players were folks who had played at one of my events before, and therefore were in the Local Players section. Those that weren't had provided DCI numbers, and were easily entered in, with the exception of the gentleman who called up that morning. His DCI number was not recognized. I hypothesized (and later had it confirmed) that he must have just gotten his DCI card the day before, and it hadn't gotten into the system as yet. I entered him in as if he were someone I had just given a DCI card to, and I hope that things work out properly there.

Two players (Serg & Vish) came in last-minute and joined the morning event, bringing us to 19. They had both been to events before, and John just quickly sent them back without the little registration slips. They flashed me their receipts and I handed them their promos.

I made my usual announcements (where's the bathroom, who I am, free shipping option at my store, etc) and then explained how the DFC's work (using sleeves or checklists, how they interact with copy cards like Evil Twin, etc). And then I handed out product and we began to open our packs (I myself was registered for the event). I gave 50 minutes for deck-building, which is longer than normal for a Sealed Deck event, but I figured as the cards were mostly new to most people, the extra time was not a luxury. That proved to be correct as some folks were still sleeving up their cards when time was called.

During deck building I collected up empty wrappers and spare token, rules tips, and checklist cards. We ended up with a big stack, as most players seemed to be opting for the sleeves instead of the checklists (I went with checklists myself). So that fear of not having enough checklist cards did not bear any fruit, I'm happy to say.

Personally, I couldn't decide on a single deck, so I ended up building two. Deck #1 was Blue/White/Black, heavy on Humans and Equipment (along with the Angelic Overseer). I was really looking forward to equipping the Invisible Stalker and running rampant on my opponent. The deck also had a slight mill theme, as I had a Trepanation Blade and two copies of Curse of the Bloody Tome. My second deck was a Werewolf/Vampire hybrid in Green/Red/Black. Two copies of Curse of the Pierced Heart (one in foil) along with great Vampires like Rakish Heir looked like a nice quick aggro build.

My first opponent was one of the young women from Clarksburg who had attended the Magic Celebration up there. This is an example of how nicely my "cross pollination" attempts have gone. We've had several players now who have found events at one site, then come to events at the other since I can advertise for both. It's nice to see that working. I think the family from Clarksburg would much rather have attended a prerelease IN Clarksburg (that makes sense), and they'll probably start coming to ones at Novel Places starting with the next set.

Round one went fairly well for my deck, despite not ever really getting the Stalker/Equipment combo thoroughly working. We had near mirror decks, each having a lot of Humans and Equipment (she even had a Curse of the Bloody Tome and a Trepanation Blade!). And we nearly used up the entire 50 minutes for the round getting two games in. I won both of those games by milling - a strategy I don't particularly enjoy winning by. I decided then that I would try the other deck in Round 2.

That deck proved to be MUCH quicker. I won against another Red-heavy aggressive deck in two games fairly quickly, which was good because one of the drawbacks of taking long in Round 1 is that results slips started to build up. A quick round meant I was available earlier to start processing those. It also gave me an opportunity to quickly eat the sandwich I had brought along for lunch.

Round 3 proved to be much worse for me (understandably - since, with Swiss pairings, you're put up against another player with the same record, if you keep winning, your opponents, theoretically, get more difficult). Despite getting an early Curse of the Pierced Heart out, I just couldn't get enough Creatures going in Game 1. I decided to switch to the first deck for Game 2, since my opponent was playing more White/Blue. Didn't matter, and I lost that game fairly quickly as well (although I did enjoy getting a Bonds of Faith on his Hanweir Watchkeep - on one side it was buffed up but has Defender; on the other side it loses the buff and can't attack or block!).

Round 4 I swapped back to my quicker deck, and hoped for a fast Round so that I could be available to distribute prize packs as people finished their rounds. This proved to not be the case, as the first game dragged on a long time (I almost had managed to defeat him, but a judicious life gain spell combined with a clever Butcher's Cleaver wielding gained him enough life to survive my onslaught and launch one of his own). The second game took almost as long, but I managed to win it. At this point there were only 5 minutes left, and several people were standing around awaiting their prize packs. I knew I needed to quit then and there, so I conceded game 3 (and therefore the match).

Lesson here: Don't sign up for your own event if it's this big unless you've got someone to assist with the administrative stuff. I thought I'd be able to handle it, but I ended up inconveniencing some folks (since the event ran longer than expected, some like the Clarksburg family really needed to go, but were awaiting their prizes). I should not have made them wait like that.

While all of this was going on, a few other things were happening as well. My two sons had shown up and bought their decks to start Open Dueling. A few folks from the Sealed Deck event also joined in, and side games were being played while folks who had ended their rounds early (or the one each round who had a Bye) played those who needed to get in 5 games to collect their bonus booster pack. One person paid four times for Open Dueling to get 1 copy of each deck, but then never joined the group to play. I've heard of such things before (like people paying for the Sealed Deck event, then taking their packs and immediately leaving before Round 1 even starts) but it was the first time I had it happen at one of my events.

The other thing is one on a personal level. I started getting a low-grade headache and having a very odd feeling in my chest starting around Round 3. I think it was part tension, part dehydration. But it led to me feeling very uncomfortable for the rest of the day, and it was a LONG day. Lesson here: make sure to bring PLENTY of water (my Klean Kanteen was empty long before the first event was finished) and pain relievers just in case.

So Round 4 was finishing around about 3:15 or so, and 3:00 was the published start time for registration for the Draft (to start at 3:30). Needless to say, things were tight. I was juggling folks' prize packs, and awaiting the last couple of matches to end, and dealing with folks finish up their Open Dueling, and trying to get my sons out to the car where my wife was waiting to take them home, and also dealing with a situation where someone who had paid for the afternoon Draft had decided he was too tired to continue (he had done a few events the previous day), so his friend was going to take his slot (not a problem as I had not yet put anyone into the system) short, it was just a wee bit chaotic. Somewhere in all this Serg asked if there was time for him to go get something to eat. I answered "yes", not fully registering what the question implied. This would come to haunt me later.

We finally got things settled from the Sealed Deck event and got ready to launch the Draft. Vish had decided to sign up for the Draft as well, and that put us at 6 players - 5 on the signup sheet and Vish. Five of them had been in the Sealed Deck event, so I just checked with player 6 to see if he had any questions regarding the DFCs, and he seemed pretty comfortable with them. I told him to feel free to ask if something should come up. I explained to everyone how drafting would work with the DFCs. Then we got ready to start. But wait, Vish said - wasn't Serg going to Draft? I didn't think so - he wasn't on the list. Vish tried to call him, but got no answer. We were already running late, so I started the event, and everyone cracked the first pack and began to draft.

After the first couple of picks, Serg came back. He had indeed been planning to Draft (which is why he asked me if there was time before he went to eat - this is what hadn't clicked with me). He had, in fact, already paid for the Draft (he paid for both when he arrived). But, at this point, it was too late since the event had already been started in the system, and in fact the first pack of the Draft had been opened.

What we had was a complete cock-up of a situation which could have been avoided if almost any of the following had happened:
  • I had left the Draft portion of the sign-up sheet with John when I went to put people for the Sealed Deck event, so he could add names to that list if people paid later;
  • John had given Serg two Registration slips to indicate that Serg had paid for both events;
  • Serg had said something more definitive like "don't start the Draft without me" or answered his phone when Vish had tried to call him
And there's probably many other ways it could have been avoided. But to my mind the lesson here is that EVERYONE absolutely MUST fill out a registration slip when they pay and give it to me. There can't be any exceptions, that's got to be the way it goes. Otherwise, there's this possibility of missing someone.

To make matters worse, Serg was Vish's ride home, so he was stuck and had to sit around and watch a Draft he couldn't participate in. I felt horrible about the situation, and hoped I could find a way to make it up to him. As it happens, at the end of the evening he expressed interest when I jokingly offered the giant Garruk advertising thingy for the prerelease, so I gave it to him. Hopefully that helps to make amends. And, in case you're concerned - Serg was, of course, given a refund for the registration fee for the event.

The Draft went relatively well. They only played three rounds, as there were only 6 in the event. One player did drop after Round 2 (which is the first time I've ever had anyone actually check the "drop" box on the results slips) which led to someone getting a Bye for Round 3.

Other than the delayed prize packs at the end of the first event, and the snafu with Serg's registration, I think everything went well, and everyone was happy with how the event went. I'm very curious as to the discrepancy in attendance between the two events. A bit more than 3x the number of players in the morning event vs. the afternoon. I don't know if it's Sealed vs. Draft, or morning vs. afternoon. But we may be better served running two Sealed Deck events next go round. I need to come up with some way to poll the players and see if I can find the answer to why the numbers were so different.

Another lesson learned: Prerelease events take longer than normal ones. Since the cards are brand new to everyone, deck-building is slower, drafting is slower, and games go slower (as players often need to read what cards do when their opponents cast them). I scheduled the two events figuring on normal times, and that proved to be a mistake.

September 27, 2011: Today I was very disheartened to receive the following email:
The DCI has invalidated the following event:

Event name:       Prerelease - Innistrad
Sanctioning #:    11-09-2989605
Coordinator:      Don G. Wiggins, DCI# xxxxxx
Brand:            Magic
Event type:       Magic Prerelease
Game:             Booster Draft
Location:         Gaithersburg, MD, United States
Date:             2011-09-25
# of players:     6
# of matches:     9
Former status:    Received
New status:       Invalidated
I can only assume that the problem is that the event was registered with under 8 players. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I should cancel the scheduled prerelease and create a casual event instead. It would seem that this may have been the right thing to do. I've got an email in to Brian (my WPN Rep) asking what I should do at this point. Hopefully it's possible to resubmit this event as a casual one after the fact, but I don't know.

Even worse, I'm worried about what this may mean for future prereleases. My understanding is that your allocation of product for a prerelease is based on past performance. And essentially I've managed to prove to WPN that we can only successfully run a single prerelease. Let's hope that they're a bit forgiving in this department!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 22)

[This is part 22 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 14.5, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, and Part 21]

September 20, 2011: I have decided that we should offer Open Dueling at the prerelease next Sunday. For those of you who don't know, in Open Dueling a player purchases an Intro Pack from the new set (which includes a preconstructed deck and a booster pack). They play games against each other, against players from other events between rounds, or between events, etc. We will also run it such that after they have played 5 other games they can report their games and receive another booster as a prize pack (I'm modeling this after how Dream Wizards runs their Open Dueling).

I tried and tried, but I would not figure out how to report an Open Dueling "event" using the WER. So, I decided it was time to try out the fancy new interface (actually it's not - it's just the WotC customer service system) we will have to start using after October 4 to get WPN answers (we will no longer be able to email our WPN reps directly - something I have mixed feelings about*). So, today I sent in this message through the system:
It is my understanding that we are allowed (even encouraged) to offer Open Dueling at our prerelease event.

I know from past experience (through my son playing Open Dueling at other prereleases) that it is possible to report the results of Open Dueling (these past events show up in his history).

My question is: how does one report Open Dueling? I have tried to figure out how to use the WER to schedule such an event, but nothing in any category seems to mention Open Dueling. And if I try to schedule a casual event, I need to specify a pairing method, which isn't how Open Dueling works (as I understand it).

Any help/instruction/advise on running Open Dueling and correctly reporting it would be greatly appreciated.

We'll see how long it takes to get a response. I got an auto-generated email letting me know my "incident" had been reported (how ominous does THAT sound?), and that I can expect a response within 24 hours.

*On the one hand, it's nice that we can get answers more easily from another rep if ours is unavailable for some reason. But there's no way to tag the message "first try Brian, then next available rep" so there's no guarantee you'll be getting a reply from your actual rep, and dang it I like my rep very much, thank you!

September 21, 2011: I got this response from the WPN system today:
This email is to inform you that we have received your incident and have escalated it for further review. A representative should be contacting you concerning your incident in 24-48 business hours or less. We apologize for this delay and appreciate your patience while we work to resolve this.
While it may be unkind, what this says to me is: we folks on the front line of customer service can't answer your question, so we sill kick it up to a WPN rep. So, I wonder, why can't I just directly correspond with a WPN rep? Do you think me incapable of determining whether a question is a general WotC Customer Service question, or if it is indeed a WPN-rep-worthy one? Le sigh.

I later got a second copy of that same email. Weird.

Then, about 6 hours later, I got this response:
Thanks for writing in! You can indeed sanction Open Dueling as a Casual Event. You can put the format as Casual Constructed and the pairing method as swiss, but as a casual event, the program will not ask you for match results. You can reference this snippet we have on our website about Open Dueling:

Open Dueling: Open Dueling players each receive 1 Innistrad Intro Pack and 1 promo card (Mayor of Avabruck/Howlpack Alpha, while supplies last). Open Dueling players use their Intro Pack to play against each other, as well as Prerelease tournament players who are between matches. All players should be encouraged to help teach Open Dueling participants how to play Magic.

If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know!
That  second paragraph appears, almost verbatim, on the Prerelease info sheet included with the promo cards that I mentioned in Part 21. I'm pretty sure I have reported an event as a Casual one before, and it did indeed ask me for match results. So, I will give this a try, but I'm not 100% confident. Also, as I said in my initial email in to them, I know for a fact that my son's DCI info said "Open Dueling" in his record, so it seems to me there should be a more specific method for reporting this type of event. Maybe there used to be and isn't now? I don't know. I guess we'll find out on Sunday.

September 23, 2011: Tonight's FNM was both a disappointment and an awesome time.

When I arrived, I found there were two WPN-related packages for me (along with all of the Innistrad booster boxes for this weekend's prerelease - yeah, I may have geekgasmed a little at those). One package was the Buy-a-Box promos for the store to hand out to people who purchase a full booster box of Innistrad. The second contained these beauties (the Launch Party promos for next weekend):
I can't wait to Proliferate one of these! (Yes, I know you have to pay for the first & fifth).

As of late last night I only had 4 people registered for the event (a Two-Headed Giant M12 Sealed Deck event). I had many things working against me here:
  • It's the night before prerelease weekend; many people are probably skipping FNM and instead going to midnight prereleases;
  • Two-Headed Giant is a somewhat obscure format and not everybody loves it.
  • A lot of folks are just tired of M12 already.
I'm still not sure whether to run a 2HG event in November. The jury's still out. Maybe in December.

So, anyway, I contacted my main man Craig this morning and asked him if he wanted to be my partner so that we'd have a third team, and I hoped and hoped that a fourth would show tonight.

Craig was indeed available, and agreed to come out and sling some spells (HUGE thanks to his family for letting him have the evening free!). We formed team "Last Minute" (the WER has you enter a Team Name as well as the individual partners in the event - and pairings, rankings, etc are done by the team name) and prepared to face off against "The Raging Goblins" and "Blue Balls". I kid you not. Unfortunately, since there were an odd number of teams, there would be a Bye for each round.

Side note here: It was my understanding that if I had fewer that 8 people at an FNM, I would have to cancel the registered event, then create & sanction a casual event in the WER. Try though I might, I could not for the life of me figure out how to create a casual 2HG event in WER. At one point in the process I was able to click on a "Team" checkbox, and select 2HG in the "type of team" drop-down box that came up afterwards. But then once I clicked on "Create and Sanction" I lost that option. Obviously I was doing something wrong, but I simply could not figure it out. So I decided to go with the "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission" philosophy and run the event as scheduled (thankfully some foresight told me to not cancel the already registered event until I got a new one put together). Foreshadowing: the event ran fine, and WER even allowed me to submit the results. I don't know what that means as yet - I guess we shall see what happens.

Craig and I opened a fairly decent pool. I built a BR build with lots of removal, a Bloodlord of Vaasgoth, a couple copies of Child of Night and a Bloodrage Vampire. Craig piloted a WG deck with lots of defense to let my deck build up to what it needed. I talked him out of including his 1 Naturalize. This would prove to be a mistake (that he will almost certainly never let me live down).

Round 1 we got paired up against The Raging Goblins (and Blue Balls got the Bye). It was going great at first: got the Bloodlord out (after hitting the opposing team in combat, so he was a 6/6), used Gravedigger to get back a Child of Night and cast her with Bloodthirst 3 thanks to the Bloodlord. Things were looking pretty good despite a turn 2 Jace's Erasure on their side of the board (which had effectively milled a lot of my removal away).

Then the blue mage played a Mind Control on the Bloodlord. "Wish I had my Naturalize!" says Craig. Arggghhhh....that was pretty much it. The Raging Goblins took the match (2HG matches are single-game, as they can take a LONG time).

Round 2 found The Raging Goblins facing the fury of Blue Balls ("maybe that's why their raging!"). Craig and I chatted about some potential business plans during our Bye, so I can't tell you much except that Blue Balls took the round.

In Round 3 we again came to the battlefield, this time against Blue Balls. This game took FOREVER. It was EPIC! Huge amounts of creatures on the board. Craig's deck played excellent defense while I built up an army (and used Goblin Fireslinger to slowly whittle away their life ["I hit you with a flaming rock."]). Blue Balls got 2 (TWO!) Swiftfoot Boots out, but thankfully that player didn't have many creatures (and you can't equip things to your team-mate's creatures!). At one point they also got our Sorin Markov and got him up to 6 (thankfully my 6/6 Bloodlord took him out after Craig's Stingerfling Spider took out their one flyer). It all ended with Craig and I attacking all in (after taking out one defender with my Grim Lavamancer and hitting them with another flaming rock).

When the dust settled, they were left with 5 life, and we had 14. All our Creatures were tapped out. Things looked bleak for us...

But I had enough mana for a final Lava Axe for 5. Go team Last Minute!

So we ended the evening with each team having 6 match points - all equally set. I took the prize packs (3 per team were in the pool) and distributed 3 to each team. The FNM promos were randomly assigned to Blue Balls and The Raging Goblins. All agreed that the night was amazingly cool (and we all wondered why not more people had shown up - 'cause IT WAS AWESOME!).

Okay, the geeky fan boy in me will now shut up.

September 24, 2011: Confirmed with  John at Beyond Comics that we are still at 11 (out of 18) preregistrations for tomorrow morning's Sealed Deck event, and only 2 (out of 18) for the afternoon's Booster Draft event. I expect we will have a number of walk-ins in the morning. I hope we don't have to turn anyone away.

John told me he had already had one person walk in asking when the prerelease was going to be (thinking it was today) and another call in with the same question. My guess is that folks find us on the Wizards Event Locator but don't really look at the details (like what day it's on), they just see the store name and head there or call.

Less than 24 hours until I run my first prerelease!